July 2013 Update - Preserving a reef! How would you even start? Part III

CROWN OF THORNS STARFISH

This year, we have already gotten a warning that we need to be on the lookout for a new danger to the reef. In February, we spotted four crown of thorns starfish on the reef offshore from Homecoming Wharf.
The crown of thorns starfish is a coral predator that eats coral polyps. Under certain conditions (which are not yet well-understood) it can reproduce in tremendous numbers and can destroy
entire coral reefs. Small numbers of the starfish have been sighted on Naitauba’s reef in the past. During their 2012 visit to Naitauba, the USP reef team did not see any crown of thorns starfish on the reef. We need to carefully evaluate the significance of these new sightings. Removing crown of thorns starfish requires care—their spines are venomous. Cutting them up doesn’t kill them, it makes more starfish, since severed starfish arms can regenerate whole starfish. The most effective method for ridding an area of starfish is to carefully collect them, bring them onshore, and bury them.

We are now considering how we might carry out larger-scale surveys around the reef to look for more crown of thorns starfish and find out whether the situation calls for an all-out starfish
control effort.

LOOKING AHEAD!
In the months ahead, we want to keep on growing our abilities to monitor Naitauba’s reef and find out what can be done to support it.
It means building up our reference library to help us identify reef species and learn about them. That means getting out on the reef around the Island to systematically check for crown of thorns starfish and other potential dangers. It means setting up ocean temperature monitoring stations at key locations around the reef. It means continuing our dialogue with the University of the South Pacific Marine Studies team about their next reef study visit, and gathering the resources to make it happen.

We welcome your interest and support. Stay in touch and learn along with us. With your help, we can keep moving forward.